As a child I first read about Lake Titicaca in the geography books as the highest navigable lake in the world. It sounded exotic enough to worth a trip which eventually I was able to do.
The town of Puno lies on the banks of Lake Titicaca that is shared by Peru and Bolivia. The lake is most famous for the Floating Villages made of reeds. This report is about a unique festival in this part of the world - the Alasitas festival.
In months of April / May Puno holds this traditional fair. The interesting thing about the fair is that you have miniature models of all material things. Small houses, cars, computers and currency notes. It is believed that if one buys and offers them one would eventually get the real ones. The fair is thronged by the locals.
Pic: 'Currency notes' , miniature cars and house models are on sale
Creating these miniatures require a fair amount of ingenuity and going by the brisk pace of selling it seems there is a thriving artisan market. Some items of interest are the miniature dining room sets, a full miniature living room, small computer models and of course miniature US Dollars which also come in various colours.
Like all fairs there is a mix of handicrafts, food stalls and music.
There are also local artisans who sell terracotta sculptures and jewellery made from semi precious stones.
This fair will give you a taste of the different varieties of puffed corn for sale as a snack and the local pastries that are very popular and one must try them.
Pic: Puffed corn on sale
This festival is largely local in nature as we hardly saw any tourists which was great as Puno is essentially a touristy town.
An interesting stall that we saw was one devoted to Bollywood personalities and music. It clearly reflected the soft power of Indian popular culture. The posters were selling like hot cakes.
Pic: Bollywood posters for sale at the Alasitas festival
Connections: Puno is well connected by road and air from Cuzco / Arequipa. There are also flights to Puno from these town as well as Lima. An interesting ride would be to take a tourist bus from Cuzco to Puno which stops by at prominent tourist attractions like old ruins and high passes of the Altiplano on the way.
Staying in Puno is no problem as this place has plentiful of accommodation of all sorts.
Tourist Trap - the floating villages trip is a must though it is a very touristy and it almost seems that the villagers put a show for the tourists.
Check with your hotel about the Alasitas festival. It is held in the outskirts of Puno town and a short ride away from the tourist part of town. Generally safe standard precautions on pickpockets apply.
Overall visiting the Alasitas fair is an interesting peek into the lives of the local community.